Growers across the Riverina believe the new agriculture visa will not bring an end to the labour crisis but they say it is a step in the right direction.
The new visa type came into effect last Thursday and will allow for entry and temporary stay in Australia for workers across primary industries, with the first workers expected to arrive from late 2021.
Agriculture minister David Littleproud said the visa aims to address workplace shortages which have been exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19, with the horticulture sector alone facing a shortfall of 30,000 workers by February.
"The ag visa will provide a long-term, reliable workforce for our critical industries while solving one of regional Australia's greatest challenges in recent history," Mr Littleproud said.
"It will be open to applicants from a range of countries and we are already in talks with a number of countries in our region who are eager to participate."
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Warburn nursery owner Jonathan Moss relies heavily on overseas workers to keep things running smoothly and in busy periods he can have up to 100 working across his property.
He said the new visa is a positive move but not one which will instantly fix the ongoing labour shortage.
"I think it's a great step forward but my question is whether or not the government is going to allow people into Australia from red-listed countries," Mr Moss said.
"Most of my workers come from Timor-Leste and at the moment I can't get any because it has been red-listed and I'm not sure if this visa will fix that."
Vito Mancini, the chair of Griffith Citrus Growers, said the labour shortage has had a devastating impact on the citrus industry, with thousands of fruit left on trees due to the lack of pickers.
"The past six months has been perhaps the worst it has been for the industry with labour costs going up by 30 to 50 per cent and availability being down by 30 to 50 per cent," he said.
Mr Mancini believes the visa is a "step in the right direction" but it must be implemented effectively and flexibly if it hopes to make a significant impact.
"We do commend the government for putting time into developing these visas but we're not 100 per cent confident if there will be a quick solution."
"Citrus farms are very stop-start and harvest dates are regularly determined by outside factors like the weather, which doesn't mix well with a visa you have to organise months in advance."
Batlow apple grower Ralph Wilson admits he has not been impacted by the labour shortage as much as many other farmers but said he would still welcome the visa.
"If it works out it will be a good thing there is no doubt about that," he said.
"From the talk it sounds good and we as growers need that because there's less and less people who can do those kind of jobs so if we can get more skilled workers coming over then that will only be good."
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